Title

Compulsive Text Messaging: Do Youth Need to Kick the Habit?

Date of Award

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Psychology/Clinical

First Advisor

Eric Dubow, PhD

Second Advisor

Jean Gerard, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Montana Miller, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Dara Musher-Eizenman, PhD (Committee Member)

Abstract

In the last decade, electronically-mediated communication (EMC) has increased dramatically as a format for social interaction, particularly among adolescents. Despite this increase, little research has focused on the behaviors occurring in EMC, most notably through text messaging. The purpose of this study was to address questions regarding the frequency and compulsivity of adolescents' texting, its relation to adjustment, and moderators of the relation between compulsivity of texting and adjustment. Participants were 211 8th graders who completed a survey about their texting behaviors. Most adolescents (80%) reported sending text messages between a few days a week and every day, with 23% reporting that they send and receive over 100 text messages each day. Females reported greater compulsivity of texting than males. Frequency of texting was related to compulsivity of texting, although only 9% of students reported compulsively texting at the rate of sometimes or more. Compulsive texting was positively related to aggression and negatively related to academic adjustment. Self-control, including effortful control and conscientiousness, moderated the relation between compulsive texting and internalizing problems, academic adjustment, and prosocial behavior. There was a protective effect for high self-control, such that compulsive texters with high self-control showed more positive adjustment than those with less self-control. Limitations of this survey study included limited generalizability of results due to the age and ethnic distributions of the sample and the lack of longitudinal data, which precludes conclusions about temporal directions of effects. Finally, ideas for future studies and important implications of this study, such as parental supervision of texting and school-related responses to texting, were discussed.